Persons over the age of 65 make up over 14 percent of the population of the United States, but they receive more than 35 percent of prescriptions filled. As we get older, our health deteriorates and our bodies need more help to keep symptoms at bay. It’s no wonder seniors make up a larger portion of those who take medications than any other age group.
Seniors generally have more medical problems, and many of them are taking medications for more than one of these conditions. More medications are becoming available every year to help treat conditions associated with aging and disease. They can help alleviate painful mental and physical symptoms when taken as directed.
In addition, seniors tend to be more sensitive to medications. Even healthy older people eliminate some medications from the body more slowly than younger persons. Therefore older adults may require a lower or less frequent dosage to maintain an effective level of medication. They may end up taking multiple medications multiple times a day in order to get the best dose within their body possible.
Seniors and those close to them — friends, relatives, caretakers — need to pay special attention and watch for adverse (negative) physical and psychological responses and side effects associated with the medication. Because they often take more medications — not only those prescribed but also over-the-counter preparations and home, folk, or herbal remedies — the possibility of adverse drug interactions is high.
Sometimes memory problems affect older people who take medications for mental disorders. An older adult may forget his or her regular dose and take too much or not enough.
A good way to keep track of medicine is to use a seven-day pill box, which can be bought at any pharmacy. At the beginning of each week, older adults and their caregivers fill the box so that it is easy to remember what medicine to take. Many pharmacies also have pillboxes with sections for medications that must be taken more than once a day.
Medications for seniors are often important to their continued health and well-being. Medications for mental health concerns are especially important, since many seniors suffer from depression or other concerns that may further negatively impact their health and long-term outlook. It’s important for seniors to manage their medications just as they do with everything else important to them (such as their finances) — carefully and with attention to detail.